Primary teaching has always been a very popular career choice. You can work in your local area, interact with children and parents who will (mostly) like and respect you, use your music, art or sports skills in your work, and of course, make a real difference to the lives of hundreds of young people during your career. Children are the future, after all.
Of course, primary teaching is not all plain sailing; there are also the inevitable stresses and strains that come from dealing with thirty or so ‘little angels’ on a daily basis! Generally speaking, however, primary teaching is a very rewarding and worthwhile career choice that few people regret. Interestingly, a high proportion of new primary teachers in Ireland are female, and the Irish government are currently attempting to convince more men to consider it as a career.
Students who wish to become primary school teachers will take a Bachelor of Education degree (BEd) at one of Ireland’s teacher training colleges. The biggest College of Education in Ireland is St. Patrick’s in Dublin, but there are other colleges around the country offering similar courses. The CAO points required are typically in the region of 450 – 480.
Subjects on a BEd course will include the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Education, and you will also study all the subjects on the primary school curriculum, including Art, Irish Language, Music, Maths, P.E., Religious Studies and Social & Environmental Studies (Geography, History and Science).
Teaching practice is also undertaken, where you begin by observing teachers at work, and then have to fulfil a certain amount of teaching hours yourself before you can qualify. It is also possible to become a primary teacher once you have completed a degree in any subject by taking a postgraduate certificate, namely the Graduate Diploma in Education.
Teaching graduates can find work as substitutes or temporary teachers relatively easily. However, securing a permanent position can be more difficult, and it can take a few years of covering in different schools around the country before you settle into a long-term role.
Bachelor of Education graduates can also work in other fields such as secondary education, or work as lecturers in third-level institutions or as school inspectors. There are also diverse careers in business, the media and the civil service that could suit some graduates.
You should have a fairly basic understanding of what being a primary teacher entails by the time you begin working in the field. You must teach the academic subjects on the national curriculum as well as looking after the personal, social and physical development of your little charges. Preparing lesson plans, setting homework, marking tests, calling the roll and keeping order in the classroom are all fundamental parts of the job.
Primary teachers can also be called upon to perform extra tasks beyond simply teaching the four-times-tables and basic Irish verbs. Depending on the age of your students, you may be called upon to stick plasters on grazed knees, organise field trips to the local pond or to Dublin Zoo, help out with sports teams or art competitions, and deal with disruptive students and doting parents.
Irish classrooms have changed radically in recent years, with children attending from many different backgrounds, and with less influence from the Catholic Church. Teachers may have to help students born in other countries adapt to the Irish curriculum, and may now be less likely to prepare classes for First Communion or Confirmation.
Personal Qualities & Work Environment
Although teacher training college will prepare you well, primary teaching can take a lot of self-adjustment. Some people are naturally more suited to dealing with rooms full of demanding children, and qualities such as understanding, patience, sympathy and firmness are essential if you are to succeed in this career.
Primary teachers obviously spend most of their time in the classroom. Some of the most appealing characteristics of teaching as a career are the relatively short days and long holidays. However, teaching balances these perks with the time spent in preparation, after-school activities, and with the stressful elements of classroom time.
Teachers start on a basic salary of around €27,000 a year, which can rise to over €50,000 a year over time.
JargonPedagogy: The art or profession of teaching
Curriculum: Everything you are required to teach about a subject
Duster: Special device used for removing chalk writing from a blackboard